Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Childhood--My Prison!

Whatever our problems in life, we can at least be glad of one thing--we can thank our lucky stars that we're not one of the uncanny Inhumans. Think about it: a race abandoned by their own creators, who might still return at some point (and do) to reclaim them and have them fulfill their purpose as a warrior subset of an alien empire. A race that requires you by law to immerse yourself in a substance that alters your genetic structure and transforms you into a new form of life, with no say in the matter and with no knowledge of the outcome. A race that uses slave labor, and thinks that there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. A race that sees a good deal of conflict with outsiders, despite being hidden in the Himalayas. A race under the rule of one of two monarchs at any given time: one that can shatter your entire city (along with a few surrounding mountains) with the slightest uttered word, or a madman who treats his subjects like cattle and wants to destroy all human life on the planet.

We can even take a closer look at one of those men, who has personal experience with the kind of treatment you can expect as an Inhuman--the one and only Black Bolt, who was the subject of genetic experimentation even before he was born. And when your own parents have no regard for your well-being before they've even met you, you probably shouldn't expect your adolescence to fill up a scrapbook of happy memories.

Meet Agon and Rynda, our proud parents, the father being both the ruler of Attilan and its chief geneticist. Both appear to be in the middle of important research, their subject undergoing intense testing. But their subject happens to be their infant son, whom we'll come to know as Black Bolt--and his initial impressions of his nursing environment are likely the stuff of nightmares. After all, how many parents pull a gun on their child to provide a demonstration?

"...we've overtaxed him! He's growing bad-tempered! We must remember... he's still only an infant! He's about to start crying!" Good lord, what a model mother we have here. We can't see her hands in the scene, but what do you want to bet she's taking notes??

(And one more notch in the minus column against the Inhumans--they were apparently responsible for the word "smithereens.")

What's truly astonishing about this tale by Stan Lee is that Lee insists on wrapping the Inhumans within a cloak of grandeur, glory and wonder, despite the evidence of our own eyes. In a later story by writer Joe Pokaski, where Black Bolt is the subject of mental interrogation by the Skrulls, Pokaski distills Lee's trappings of science and advancement down to the (forgive the word) human level, as Black Bolt, who has managed to save himself from being crushed in that lab accident, is put into solitary confinement in order to prevent his power from endangering the city and its populace, where he'll stay for his entire childhood.

Some geneticists. No way of undoing the harm you've done to your son? No law that sanctions you for your actions? If anyone deserves to be confined without visitors, it's arguably these consummate parents. It's good to be the ruler, eh?

On Black Bolt's 19th birthday, he's finally allowed to be freed from his quarters, and meet his family. You'd think that his father would open that door and deliver the news in person, wrapping his son in a strong hug and escorting him out into the sunlight--but why bother with all of that sentiment when a viewscreen will do?

"...I bid you farewell!" Good heavens, let's at least be grateful the man thought to check in on his son at all.

It would appear that Black Bolt has seen his family in person at least once--but why not whenever they wished to see him, or to keep him company? Why was he forced to be alone for almost two decades? Pokaski takes liberties with Lee's story as far as giving the guy a break in that respect, at least.

Of course, no reunion of the Royal Family would be complete without the black sheep of the family, Maximus--who isn't yet "mad," but close enough to have his power-hungry eyes on the throne and seeing to it that his brother is kept out of the running even as he gets his first taste of freedom.

Medusa and the others quickly see to it that Maximus is disarmed and subdued--but Black Bolt's origin tale is ended on a dour note, which seems appropriate for this race of beings who seem to have so little to look forward to as a people and who all too often live up to their name.

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